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Tom Sleigh

Tom Sleigh most recent volume of poetry is Space Walk. He teaches in the MFA Program at Hunter College. His essay “The Deeds,” from the Summer 2008 issue of VQR, was selected for Best American Travel Writing 2009.


A woman at a clinic in Mogadishu holds the paperwork she will need to complete to receive care for her infant.

A Violent Prone, Poor People Zone

Winter 2012 | Reporting

The Dadaab Refugee Camp and the Eastleigh neighborhood of Nairobi have seen an influx of hundreds of thousands of Somalis seeking a better life—but, as often as not, Kenya can offer them little.


Border Crossings

1 / On the Train Outback of the mind. Shiver of the fens in oily desolation staining the swamp water frozen over. Newark up ahead, the telephoto lens of the heart homing in on a dead son or daughter. If you wait long enough, the oil [...]


Her eyes alertly track my eyes staring at her face so disfigured that I have to will my eyes to keep on looking as she sits there playing with her doll, telling it to mind her mind her now, and then smiling at it with what’s left of her lips [...]

The Deeds

The mass burial site for the victims of an Israeli air strike on Qana on July 30, 2006. (Feyrouz / CC) 1 “When we drove into Qana last year,” Joseph told me, scanning the gray concrete houses on either side of the road, [...]

Airport Economy Inn

No one speaking, nothing moving except for the way the snow keeps falling, its falling a kind of talking in the dark while all across the valley we keep on sleeping in the separate conditions of our dreaming. His face all overgrown wit [...]

Last Broadcast

  “We, the most faraway people on the earth, the last of the free shielded until today by our remoteness and obscurity, even here we know what everybody knows: that those who know little about us are by their very ignorance convinced w [...]

Self as Self-Impersonation in American Poetry

Winter 2006 | Essays

Although my sympathies may lie with the horse and not with God’s implacable heat, implicit in this conversion story are questions about identity, how it gets established, and what forces are sufficient to sponsor it. In the realm of poetry cocktail parties, you get to hear your share of conversion stories: cocktail parties being what they are, no one is under oath. And so I once witnessed a poet undergo multiple conversions in a single evening: depending on the confessor’s faith, this Paul/Saul claimed to be an autobiographical poet one moment, a L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet the next, a narrative poet after that. Totally apart from whether or not these professions were sincere, is the question as to why a poet shouldn’t be able to inhabit all these positions at the same time. And it’s an interesting question as to why this kind of fluidity causes such unease in the poetry world, as well as in the realm of cultural debate. If you claim to be in league with the aesthetics of poet X, then you can’t possibly like the work of poet Y.